Chambré’s Bridget Moylan takes a look at the DUP’s manifesto for tomorrow’s Assembly election.
The DUP’s 60 page manifesto was launched last Thursday in Portadown. Entitled “Real actions on the issues that matter to you”, the manifesto expands on their “5-point plan” which they published last month. The party is running 30 candidates across all 18 constituencies.
Health is the first priority that the DUP set out. In order to “fix the NHS”, the party is committed to:
- Investing an extra £1 billion to cut waiting lists using a partnership with the independent sector
- Delivering an additional 750,000 hospital assessments and procedures
- Training more GPs per year
- Implementing Bengoa reforms for a better health service
The Bengoa reforms are part of a plan in response to the report produced by an Expert Panel led by Professor Bengoa to transform Health and Social Care in NI.
The party also pledge to modernise the health system and increase “the number of health professional training places in line with the HSC workforce strategy and Medical Student Places Review” and cut waiting lists by investing £700 million into the sector.
The manifesto sets out a range of commitments to help grow the economy. They include:
- Supporting 20,000 jobs in the next 5 years
- Expand the apprenticeship programme
- Make tourism a £2 billion industry
The party also pledges continued support for the 10x economic vision which was introduced by then DUP Minister for the Economy, Dianne Dodds (Upper Bann). The “ambitious” vision outlines how key sectors can be advanced, such as the health sciences and Financial Technology.
Help Working Families
“The cost-of-living crisis is very real for many families in Northern Ireland”, the manifesto says. To help combat the cost of living crisis and to ‘help working families’, the party is committed to:
- Delivering 30 hours free childcare per week
- Financially supporting hard-pressed families with an Energy Support Payment
- Delivering Energy Efficiency schemes to support retrofitting and better-insulated homes
- Making going green affordable to homes in NI
The party supports a Windfall tax on energy firms. This tax, the manifesto says, should be “ring-fenced” to make sure that is used to support those most in need and to deliver energy efficiency schemes to homes.
“Keep our schools world-class” is part of the party’s five point plan and is a key priority in the manifesto. To do this, the manifesto commits to:
- Building more new schools in the next 5 years
- Restructuring special educational needs services
- Improving educational outcomes for our most disadvantaged students
The party also pledges to widen access to breakfast clubs and introduce a cap on school uniforms.
On a “fair funding model for all schools”, the manifesto states that while the party supports shared education, they “do not believe that one sector deserves more funding than another”. This follows on from Integrated Education Bill that the party attempted to block using a petition of concern. The Bill received Royal Assent on 26 April.
Agriculture and environment
On the agri-food sector, the DUP pledge to:
- Deliver financial support to farm businesses to address rising input costs and market volatility
- Support local farmers to be more efficient, sustaining production while improving agriculture’s environmental footprint and design farming with nature based policies
- Press the Government to provide tax incentives which would help encourage long-term leases for land.
The DUP pledge to “promote substantial investment to deliver on the aims and provisions of the Climate Change Act”. This follows on from the Climate Change Bill (No. 2), which was sponsored by DUP Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots and is currently awaiting Royal Assent. They are also committed to tackling pollution in “hotspot areas” and investing in “research and development to identify green and clean solutions”.
The DUP commits to providing “world class infrastructure”, by improving NI’s roads, planning system and broadband. By doing so, they aim to ensure that NI ‘is a competitive and attractive place to do business. On people with disabilities and the elderly, the DUP are committed to “expediting” a new Disability Strategy and will prioritise an “age-friendly” policy. In 2020 it was announced by the Department for the Communities that work would commence on the development of a Disability Strategy. The strategy has yet to be realised.
The manifesto calls for the removal of the protocol and states that it “will judge any new arrangements” against “7 tests”, which require any new arrangements to:
- Fulfil Article 6 of the Acts of Union, which requires that everyone in the United Kingdom is entitled to the same privileges.
- Avoid any diversion of trade.
- Not constitute a border in the Irish Sea.
- Give the people of Northern Ireland a say in the making of the laws which govern them.
- Result in “no checks on goods going from Northern Ireland to Great Britain or from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.”
- Ensure no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom unless agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.
- Preserve the letter and spirit of Northern Ireland’s constitutional guarantee erequiring the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland for any diminution in its status as part of the United Kingdom.
‘Strengthening and promoting Northern Ireland’ , supporting Northern Irish sport, and ‘fixing the government’ are also prioritised in the manifesto.